Below you’ll find the transcript for episode 16, How to Find Volunteers, from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
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EP 16: How to Find Volunteers
Welcome to episode number 16, How to Find Volunteers. Today, we’re going to be talking about all things volunteer-related. How do you find them? How do you recruit them? How do you encourage commitment?
We’re going to start by talking about the two different types of volunteers.
1. Volunteers serving in a leadership position
They require a vetting process, which includes prayer and pastoral approval. In episode 14, How to Build a Women’s Ministry Team, I unpack that process. Be sure to go back and listen to it if you’re looking for leaders to serve in a leadership position. Leadership positions include the women’s ministry team members, Bible study leaders, small group leaders, table leaders, childcare workers, and prayer team members.
These volunteers, we hold to a higher standard. There’s a different set of expectations. They are responsible for training and teaching others and sharing the gospel message. They oversee the spiritual growth of women in the church, so we want to make sure that we are very intentional when we recruit these women and that they can meet that higher standard that is set.
We want these volunteers to be spiritually mature. And in almost every case, they probably need to be a member of your church.
I’m reminded of this verse that you can find in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
The Bible is clear that those who are serving in these leadership roles will be judged and held to a higher standard, and we should do that as well.
2. Everybody else.
It’s those women who help behind the scenes who help with food and decor, hospitality, cleanup, all those kinds of things. In most cases, these women do not need to be members of the church, or quite honestly, don’t even need to know Christ as their personal savior to be able to fulfill that volunteer role.
Finding women to volunteer is a struggle. I get it. I’ve been there myself.
In one particular church we attended, I found that the circles were tight. Only select groups of people were asked to lead and serve at events. You had to know someone. There was rarely a chance to volunteer. Volunteers were asked individually, maybe via email or phone call, to volunteer. This is not a bad thing, but it’s bad when that’s the only on-ramp. New people were not welcomed into the fold.
Some churches have a one-year rule. That means they will not let you serve in leadership until you have been a member for at least one year. Now I have to admit this never made sense to me. I understand that they wanted people to understand the church culture and how that specific church operates, but this can cause frustration for new members, especially new members who have served for long, extensive periods in other churches.
Our pastor believes in giving people the opportunity to serve as soon as possible. As a family that’s fairly new to the church and plugged in and serving in multiple roles, I can tell you, it felt great not to have to wait!
Consider opening up opportunities for those who are new at your church, who have a seasoned record of solid volunteering in their walk with Christ, so they don’t have to wait to volunteer. I would hate for them to go elsewhere.
How do you recruit volunteers for your women’s ministry?
Like I hinted earlier, there are two different paths, and it depends on the type of volunteer. Leadership positions are recruited differently than all other volunteer needs. I will do my best to highlight the differences in this approach as we walked through some of the tips.
1. You’ve got to make people aware that there’s a need.
We advertise the need for volunteer positions, but not for those that are in leadership positions. Women can’t help if they don’t know there’s a need. This means we need to make multiple asks: send an email to your women, use your Facebook group, put it in the church bulletin, have signup sheets at an event.
Ask your small group leaders. Tell them what you’re looking for and ask them if they can recommend someone – that works for any type of volunteer needed and for those who are serving in leadership. Asking small group leaders is great because they know women you probably don’t know, and they’ve seen them use their gifts.
3. Sign up form.
I love to do this for retreats or conferences. When women sign up, give them the opportunity to help with decorations, serve on the retreat planning team, help with food, or childcare. Whatever the needs are, give them some spots where they can volunteer.
But be sure you follow up, even if it’s to say we have more women than we need. Can I save your name for the next event? And then don’t forget to reach out. Women who volunteer, but nobody acknowledges that, can often feel slighted – even if that’s not what we intended.
Pray that God will bring people. We need to ask him to send volunteers. Luke 10:2 says, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” God’s word tells us we are to pray and ask for help.
5. Create a database.
At events, you can ask your women to fill out an information card. This is especially helpful when they are new or at something like a fall kickoff. Ask women to check the box for areas that they’d like to serve in. Then pass their contact information to those team leaders. Please strongly encourage your team leaders to use those lists. Again, when women volunteer and hear nothing, they will feel like they are not wanted.
The second biggest issue leaders tend to have with volunteers is a lack of commitment.
They don’t show up, they don’t follow through, and some of them are just plain apathetic.
Six Ways You Can Encourage Volunteer Commitment
1. Provide training for your volunteers.
I read the craziest statistic in Katie Cole’s book, Developing Female Leaders. She said 100% of women will say no if they think they’ll fail. Don’t let them fail. Provide the training they need. Sometimes that can mean shadowing someone at an event, it can mean role-playing, or walking through the process. Assure them you will equip them to succeed.
This is critical for your leadership roles, but it applies to everyone – type up the instructions so they can read through them and give them time to ask questions. We want to send them off feeling confident in doing the task they’ve been recruited to do.
2. Make it fun.
Serving should be fun. Make your meetings fun.
- Bring little happies to place at each seat or snacks.
- Be sure you start and end on time.
- Let them feed off of your excitement and energy and have fun while you’re serving together.
- Play music.
Have a good time.
We need to communicate the tasks and our expectations. We need to do so in a way that is also personal – not just a series of emails, although written instructions and communications are important.
We want to make sure that we express our gratitude for those serving in those emails, when we make phone calls, and send texts. It feels good to be appreciated.
4. Ask for feedback and be willing to make changes.
That may be as simple as just a one-on-one conversation where you ask them, “How do you think it went?” It can also mean giving out surveys to your team and the people who helped with your retreat – listening to them and giving them an opportunity to share their concerns will encourage the volunteer climate in your church and on your team.
5. Build relationships.
Take the time to do a quick icebreaker, so volunteers get a chance to know one another. Work alongside them and ask questions. Find out what they like to do, who’s in their family, and how they spend their time. Serving together should build relationships. Women may meet other women in the church that they have never met when they’re serving. And for those who do know one another, friendships deepen as they work side-by-side.
6. Ask them to sign a covenant.
We need to make sure that we thank our volunteers.
- List their names in the back of the program.
- Ask women who helped to stand at an event so everyone can thank them with their applause.
- Send out handwritten thank you notes.
Side note: It’s so sweet when the budget allows us to include a small gift card, too – even a $5 thank you to a coffee shop, Chick-fil-A, or an ice cream shop. Try to make sure you pick a gift card that they will actually use. (If they have any dietary restrictions, please try and honor those. It will just show that you care and that you know them.)
4. Celebrate after the event together.
That can be so much fun and so helpful. Get their feedback on the event. Give them a thank you gift. I love it when I can find favor-related thank you gifts to give the women on the team. Bless them with a meal or dessert or some kind of food-related celebration.
5. Listen to their feedback.
We want to invite our volunteers to debrief with the team and complete a Post Event Evaluation Form. They have likely seen and witnessed God work in ways that the rest of your team may have missed because they were busy serving in their roles.
It’s been said that for every volunteer you have four people will attend your event. They’re going to tell their friends that they’re involved, it’s going to come up in conversation, they’re going to be excited about what’s happening, they’re going to tell others because they don’t want them to miss out – so use lots of volunteers.
I know that it can be tempting sometimes to hold things close and tight because we want to make sure that the event goes off without a hitch. It can be hard to let go of control, in all honesty. I struggle a lot with this.
When we allow women to serve using the gifts that God has given them, it blesses them, it matures them, it grows them, and it is good ultimately for the Kingdom. It’s also the way that God has created the church. We are one body with many parts, 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 highlights that so well. I love what verse 14 says, “for the body does not consist of one member, but of many.”
When members of the body are neglected or not allowed to serve and not allowed to use their gifts, they’re either going to stop using them or go where their gifts are valued.
Our job is to encourage women to use their gifts, which means we provide lots of opportunities to do so.
Today’s Toolbox Task:
- Identify the current needs your team has for volunteers.
- Determine how your team will work to fill those spots.
I hope I’ve given you lots of ideas so that you can easily complete those tasks.
I pray that you will find the blessing and the joy in inviting other women to serve alongside of you and that you will see the amazing impact that it can have on your women’s ministry.